Time to hand out midterm grades to this year's first-round draft choices. Most receive C's or incompletes, but the following are making real progress:
•Eddie Brown, No. 13 pick. The Bengal wide receiver appears to be the best of the '85 draft, with 26 catches for 440 yards and three TDs. Teammates call him the Magic Man. An A student.
•Freddie Nunn, No. 18. A blitzing linebacker for the Cards. A-minus.
•Ray Childress, No. 3. Has started every game for the Oilers at left defensive end. Strong against the run, needs to work on pass rush. B-plus.
•Ron Holmes, No. 8. A starting defensive end for the Bucs, he has improved weekly. Says Holmes, "Basically, I'm not so lost out there anymore." B-plus.
These rookies have a lot to learn:
•Richard Johnson, No. 11. The Houston Oiler right cornerback has been burned repeatedly. Failed to jam Browns wide receiver Clarence Weathers at line in Oct. 13 game, and Weathers then caught 67-yard touchdown pass. Probably won't play much more—if at all—this year. F.
•Darryl Sims, No. 20. Steeler defensive end missed two weeks of camp because of surgery for infected fingernails. Plays on special teams and in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Made only one tackle in first six games. D-minus.
•Alvin Toles, No. 24. The Saints 6'1", 211-pound linebacker has been something of a bust. One teammate says he's "clueless" about defensive system. D.
Weird Injury of the Week: Before Denver's Oct. 13 game with the Colts, linebacker Darren Comeaux was going through that age-old football ritual—pounding down teammates' shoulder pads. While working on Karl Mecklenburg's pads, Comeaux missed his target and smashed his thumb on Mecklenburg's helmet. Result: broken thumb.
Unfazed, Comeaux had the thumb bandaged and played on special teams. But the next day the thumb was much worse. The Broncos had to put Comeaux on injured reserve for four weeks.
SI polled 200 NFL players as to likes and dislikes, and these were the results (in order of preference):
•Nastiest player in the league: Lyle Alzado, by a landslide. Then, Randy White and Howie Long (tie), Kenny Easley, Gary Fencik and Matt Millen (tie).
•Nicest players: Walter Payton, Lee Roy Selmon, Steve Bartkowski, Steve Largent and Mike Haynes (tie), Charlie Joiner.
•Cheapest of the cheap-shot artists: Fencik, Easley, Alzado, Bill Johnson, Ron Heller.
•Cockiest: Mark Gastineau, hands down. Next, Joe Theismann, Mark Clayton, Jim McMahon and Lester Hayes (tie), Dan Marino.
•Smartest: Joe Montana, Dan Fouts, Marino, Largent, Ken Anderson, Steve Nelson and Carl Ekern (tie). Nelson voted for Don Strock: "He has to be smart to get paid that much for carrying a clipboard.... He'll be a great coach."
•Most overrated: Hayes, Tom Cousin-eau, Gastineau, Ronnie Lott, Marino. Says Houston nosetackle Mike Stensrud of his vote for Marino, "He won't react under pressure. He's not a championship player that way."
•Most underrated: James Wilder, Tony Nathan and Dave Krieg (tie), Dave Logan and Roger Craig (tie), Raymond Clayborn, Darryl Grant and Ottis Anderson (tie).
•Coach (other than your own) you would most like to play for: Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Chuck Knox, Bud Grant, Bum Phillips.
•Coach you would least like to play for: Tom Landry, Shula and Mike Ditka (tie), John Mackovic, Forrest Gregg, Dan Henning and Leeman Bennett (tie).
•Team you would most want to play for: Raiders, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego.
•Team you would least like to play for: Buffalo, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Cleveland, Dallas.
•If you were building a team, the player you'd pick first: Montana, Marino, Eric Dickerson, Long and Payton (tie), Lawrence Taylor.
William Andrews, the Falcon running back who tore ligaments and suffered nerve damage in his left knee 14 months ago, says he's ready to practice with the team. "This has been a long road," says Andrews, 29. Dr. John Garrett, who performed the surgery, says Andrews has "ninety percent" of the feeling in the stretched peroneal nerve.
"I can't say I'm counting on coming back this year. But I'm pretty excited. There has been progress," Andrews says.
"I've got to gain more strength as far as cutting, but the foot doesn't roll over and I can still maintain my balance when I cut, so that makes it encouraging."
San Diego coaches are beginning to resent owner Alex Spanos and his meddlesome ways. One assistant says he believes their jobs are "week-to-week." The latest incidents:
•Loathing indecision and growing impatient with the recovery of Kellen Wins-low, Spanos put pressure on Don Coryell to decide whether or not to activate the tight end. Winslow began practicing Oct. 9 and last week was given an O.K. by the team doctor to play. Spanos phoned Coryell and told the coach to make his decision before the Oct. 20 game at Minnesota. Coryell did, although he didn't feel Winslow could contribute for another week or two.
•While patrolling the practice field the other day, Spanos told the defensive coaches how much he wanted to win—and that he wouldn't tolerate mistakes.
Ken Jolly, the Chiefs' right outside linebacker, hails from that football powerhouse, Mid-America Nazarene, an NAIA school in Olathe, Kans. "After games, when all the other guys on the Chiefs go across the field to shake hands with their college buddies," Jolly says, "I head straight to the locker room. There's nobody I can relive old times with."
Not that he wants to relive them that much. "It was such a strict, religious school that it made BYU look liberal," says Jolly, a Baptist. "I lived off campus, so it wouldn't cramp my life-style. Let's just say I'd go to chapel, then I'd chase girls."
Notes and quotes from the NFL owners' meetings:
•Game film is out, videotape is in. Initial cost per club: about $400,000. Says George Young, the Giants' general manager, "I'd rather have four extra players on the roster and take a chance on coaches having eyestrain."
•The owners will retain a consultant to possibly look into additional forms of revenue sharing, including stadium luxury boxes. Currently, luxury-box revenue is not shared. Twenty-four teams play in stadiums with luxury boxes, but only 20 derive "significant" income. "The league was founded on revenue sharing," says Cleveland's Art Modell, a leader in the movement for sharing, who also happens to own the boxes in Cleveland Stadium. Says Steelers president Dan Rooney, "It was the most generous, statesmanlike move to happen in the NFL in a decade."
•Remember all the measures taken to speed up the games and make them shorter? Well, they are a bit longer. After six weeks, the '85 average was 3:09:45, compared to the overall '84 average of 3:08:33.
Drew Pearson, the former Dallas All-Pro wide receiver, has had trouble sorting out life after football. Forced to retire in July '84 because of a liver injury suffered in an auto accident, Pearson caught on last season as a booth analyst for CBS. But he was considered unanimated and his contract wasn't renewed.
Last June, Pearson starred in a Cowboys old timers' game, and he started thinking about a comeback. He worked out with the Cowboy quarterbacks. But a month later, doctors nixed the idea, saying that further injury to his liver could be fatal.
Now Pearson is helping coach the Cowboys' rookie wide receivers. His next goal—to be a general manager.
"It's really weird being a coach," Pearson says. "When I was a player, I said I'd never coach. To me, you've seen one coach, you've seen them all. Sometimes, it's a bit empty. But I don't think anybody feels I'm hanging around."
ON THE SIDELINES, HE'S REALLY SIDELINED
Jimmy Raye, Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator, is still not sure what happened on Sept. 17. "I was jogging near the airport," he says, "and I ran underneath an underpass and started to turn around. The next thing I knew, I woke up in intensive care with doctors telling me I was lucky to be alive."
Raye, 40, had been hit by a car traveling at about 40 mph and had been thrown against the windshield. "The driver said she went from the sunlight into the darkness and never saw me," says Raye, who suffered compound fractures of the right leg and a concussion and was hospitalized for 10 days.
Now Raye patrols practices from a golf cart and crutches. During games he is on crutches on the sidelines. "It makes it tough to teach," he says. "By late afternoon the leg starts throbbing. I feel trapped. I need a release. Running was so soothing. I guess I'm going to have to take up another sport—maybe swimming."
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Ron Jaworski, the Eagles' 34-year-old quarterback, completed 22 of 35 passes for 380 yards, including the winning touchdown with 10:07 left, in Philadelphia's 16-14 upset over the Cowboys.
DEFENSE: Patriots outside linebacker Andre Tippett had four solo tackles and three sacks—two coming in the final two minutes of the game—as New England defeated the New York Jets 20-13.
Alltime Career Leaders, Kickoff Returns
Steve Van Buren
Alltime Career Leaders, Punt Returns